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Demonstrating the value of animal location and behaviour data in the red meat value chain

Project start date: 01 March 2017
Project end date: 14 February 2018
Publication date: 03 May 2018
Project status: In progress
Livestock species: Sheep, Goat, Lamb, Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
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This report brings together the results of several research activities aimed at exploring and uncovering the value that might be derived for graziers if they could remotely monitor the location behaviour and state (LBS) of the animals under their management.

The deployment of sensors on a number of properties provided industry participants with hands on experience with the information that can be provided by LBS systems. These producers reported a range of potential applications and benefits.

On-line surveys and detailed producer interviews explored the potential applications and benefits that graziers might gain from the development of commercial LBS systems. A diverse range of applications were reported.

There were a small number of applications that had large value but much of the financial benefit would come about through the cumulative impact of a number of applications with smaller revenue gains and cost savings. The value of non-financial benefits of LBS systems should not be underestimated. Many producers articulated the benefits that would come in terms of "peace of mind" from implementing these systems.

The national economic impact of LBS systems across the red meat sector could be significant, with the benefits from producers involved in the study scaled up across the beef and sheep industries resulting in substantial gains. However, these economic impacts can only be realised if the hardware can be provided at appropriate cost, producers actually adopt the technology and the benefits estimated can be achieved.

Despite significant private sector activity, there is still no system that Australian producers can easily buy off the shelf and implement on an extensive grazing property. Further hardware developments are required by the various technology entities currently in the market to realise this. Unless there is complete market failure, fully publicly funded hardware developments are unnecessary where co-investment schemes remain viable. One exception to this would be the development of research grade hardware which might be shared across the livestock science community to provide recommendations to commercial developers around sensor duty cycling and algorithm development.

Further research could explore the way in which LBS systems might impact on animal welfare and social license as well as biosecurity. More novel ways of obtaining the LBS information through off-animal sensors also warrants investigation. Research into the development of robust and reliable algorithms that turn data from LBS systems into information that producers can make profit driving decisions from is essential.

A key next step will be establishing long term evaluation sites that support the testing of commercial systems along with collecting physical, behavioural and high resolution sensor data to improve sensor design and algorithm development. Collaboration across commercial developers, domain experts and data analysts will be essential.

There is potential for LBS systems to impact positively on the way livestock are managed across the industry and bring significant economic and non-financial value. The challenge will be taking the ideas and concepts developed in this project and turning them into a tangible reality for all graziers.

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Primary researcher: Spatial Information Systems Research